It seems there’s always someone in a group who can keep the big picture in mind while still attending to all the details, usually without needing any fanfare or recognition. One of the unsung heroines in our St. Andrew’s story is Estela Le. Over 13 years ago when Tim Lyons began the Friday Lunch for the Community, it was a one-man show. That is, until week two when Estela, her mom, and her son, Shaun, came to check out the lunch program and make sure, according to Tim, “it was all cool”. At the end of the meal, Shaun wondered if they could help do the dishes and, as Tim was busy cooking and serving, Estela led her team to the kitchen. They started helping out, and, in Tim’s words, Estela “shows up every Friday and knows exactly what to do, where everything is stored, etc.”
Every Thursday, Estela offers her support and expertise to Annie Heyligers and the Food Pantry. Perhaps in memory of her father, Estela has gotten to know many of the families “on the line” and sets aside items such as meat and poultry to accommodate folks with many mouths to feed. Estela anticipates the Food Pantry needs; over the holidays, Annie says Estela came in with a friend and cleaned shelves, washed floors, and disposed of trash. Estela knew Annie worked hard at the Food Pantry and wanted her to start the year fresh. “But no one works as hard as Estela”, says Annie. For her part, Estela says the Friday Lunch and Thursday Food Pantry are “very, very special to me”. She looks forward to Thursdays and Fridays when she can “give of her heart”.
Estela also helps Leslie Hernandez with Fellowship special events and is an invaluable resource to Debbie Hickson and the Christmas Gift Shop for the Food Pantry clients, especially interpreting for our Spanish-challenged volunteers, like me. On a personal note, I remember how friendly and patient Estela was with me when I first started helping out in the kitchen for special events. She always has a huge smile and a welcoming hug when I see her around campus.
After several years of volunteering, Estela formally became a part of the St. Andrew’s team when she was hired to replace the janitorial service that had been contracted to keep the church, parish hall and preschool clean. After just two week of Estela and her family doing the cleaning, every building looked newer and shinier than it had in years.
Estela learned the importance of community and selfless giving from her family of fourteen. When her father “couldn’t finish” the food on his plate, he’d ask the children for help. Later on, Estela realized the sacrifices her father made and how he provided for his family. A daughter of immigrants, Estela came to the US from Mexico when she was seventeen. She learned English by taking Adult Ed classes, where she met her future husband, an immigrant from Vietnam. She carried on the family tradition of caring by ensuring her three children attended college.
Tim says Estela is “one of my favorite people ever. She looks for no acclaim. She keeps working no matter how long it takes to get done.” Anticipating the needs of the community? Giving with no expectation of recognition? Sounds like the definition of an unsung heroine to me. A mainstay of St. Andrew’s, Estela shows us how to let our hearts lead us to the many ways we can express God’s love to all. -Gigi Miller